Bevin budget compromise, lawsuit

Story by Kayla HarrellNews Editor

The Kentucky General Assembly has until the end of Friday to pass a budget that will determine how much state funding Murray State and other public universities will receive over the next two years.

The budget battle is being waged on two fronts: the next two-year spending bill that’s in the legislators’ hands and the proposed cuts by June 30 being pushed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit against Bevin and his immediate 4.5 percent budget cuts Monday in Franklin County Circuit Court.

“As attorney general, it is my job to make sure that no public official acts outside of his or her authority, regardless of position and regardless of party,” Beshear said to reporters at a news conference Monday, according to WKYT and The Associated Press. “That is my duty. And that is why today I’m announcing that I have filed suit against Gov. Bevin for his unconstitutional and illegal order cutting Kentucky’s public universities and colleges in this fiscal year.”

Beshear said to the Lexington Herald-Leader he was surprised that Bevin cut higher education. He said education is not a privilege but a necessity for the state’s economic survival.

The state university presidents, including President Bob Davies, met with Bevin last Thursday to compromise about the immediate budget cuts for this fiscal year. That issue now is sent to court.

“We recognize the substantial damage that would be done to our institutions and to our students in the event a budget agreement cannot be reached,” according to a letter signed by eight of the nine university presidents.

The decision to compromise “did not come lightly and was based on the commitment of our state leaders to invest in higher education in the near future,” Davies wrote in an email to Murray State students.

“It was made clear that the governor was very reluctant to accept anything below a 4.5 percent base reduction in the upcoming biennium budget—half of the governor’s original proposed reductions—and he would agree to a 2 percent rescission this fiscal year, if it is determined by the courts to be permissible, instead of the original 4.5 percent,” he wrote.

The university continues to prepare for the budget cuts. However, most decisions will not be made until a budget is decided.

Bracing for a cut next year of about 4.8 percent “is one of the many scenarios being discussed, but nothing has been decided at this point as we are still awaiting a finalized state budget,” said Adrienne King, vice president of Marketing and Outreach.

“We won’t have answers until we get a budget,” said Sue Patrick, executive director of Communications and Marketing for the Kentucky Council of Postsecondary Education. “In terms of tuition, we will need to work with our tuition development workgroup and our campuses on the tuition issue and that work can’t start until after we have a budget.”

Murray State is still receiving inquiries and applications of prospective students, King said.

  “We remain committed to our mission – you, our students – and are confident that the university’s reputation for academic excellence will support continued growth,” King said.